This is Holy Week. This is the music of the soul as she approaches.
"O My people, what have I done unto thee? Wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against Me."
"Holy God. Holy Mighty. Holy Immortal. Have mercy upon us."
It's odd to move through Holy Week in this culture. We have no daily parades through the streets, no Passion Plays, not even days off from the world of commerce as we sometimes have for Christmas or Thanksgiving.
But ... this is not a party.
On Palm Sunday, our tiny band of parishioners went outdoors with our palm branches as always, singing, following the cross and incense. The Starbucks customers, as always, bemused by us ... the TriMet bus at the stop across the street giving its passengers a tour of the oddity. This year, passers by on the street came with us as we filed back into the building.
Today I will work at the library. Throughout the week, there is school work to do. The Great Husband goes and sits at his desk at work every day, and makes the deposits and talks to the account managers and patiently deals with the next interruption - and the one after that. It all just keeps going, and woven into the relentlessness of it all, we will go to church.
On Thursday, we hear again about the night in which he was betrayed. Our Lord gave "a new commandment," and so, to show this new Maundy, the priest washes the people's feet. The altar is stripped bare. Bit by bit, each thing we love and use in the worship is taken. Gone. The service becomes more raw. The sounds of the busy world fade away. The Watch begins. For that night and all the next day, parishioners take it in turns to "watch with me one hour" where the holy Presence waits quietly for Friday's sacrifice.
We drive home on Thursday night. The roads are the same. The cars are the same. We need a little to eat before we go to bed. We stop at the traffic lights and speed up to merge. We park near our door and put another bag of pellets into the stove and we go to bed. Warm. Safe. Dry. Befriended and free. Jesus wasn't.
We sleep fitfully and wake at three in the morning. It's dark and cold and hard to move. Mostly in silence, we drive back to take our watch. Each of us, alone with the Presence for an hour. Each of us in prayer. Quiet. Sometimes in tears. We wait.
Breakfast, and a drive home, and a shopping trip for Easter's feast. How is it possible to go to the store and buy groceries? It is as if nothing has happened. This world does not know about the Presence still there, waiting, patient in the glow of candles and the scent of warm wax and yesterday's incense. I act my part and pay the person taking the money and we go to the car again. We drive a lot in Holy Week. Each trip feels just a little more surreal.
Good Friday service goes through me like knives. The altar is bare. "Behold the wood of the cross," the priest intones, "on which was hung the savior of the world." - the melody of this chant more complex and difficult. We answer him, stumbling a little on the tones the first time. "Oh come, let us adore him." He says it again. We answer him again. And once more. And each one, alone in his turn, walking, kneeling down three times, venerate.
The Passion is told - by them, and by us, singing out, "We have no king but Caesar." "Crucify him. Crucify him." We say those awful words. We did this to him. There is no wine in the cup. There is no music at the last. There is no light. We have crucified our king, and we go out into the night, weeping.
This is Holy Week. Every year, not in a movie, and not in a book. This is the Passion of our Lord, and now we move through it again, approaching, weeping.